Red plaid and gingham shirted wait staff, candles on the tables, bottles filled with red wine on the huge racks at either end of the restaurant and a little bit of rock n roll and an energy that makes you feel like you are on the verge of something grand! It's not your typical Italian restaurant although it easily could be. Put some of that gingham on the tables and scatter a few bottles of Chianti around, nix the rock music and perhaps it would seem old school Italian. But then, there's that Chef's Bar, the open kitchen and a cocktail list to go with the forward thinking Italian "we just foraged this from a local farm" menu and you know it's not your mama's Italian restaurant!
It's no wonder Ava Gene's has won the hearts and bellies of more than just a few gastronomes such as myself. Last night was my very first experience at Ava Gene's and I can guarantee it won't be my last! Intimate in a "happening" sort of way, I was a little worried I didn't dress up enough but then remembered the article in my latest Portland Monthly mag and remembered these few words: " rock and roll never dies, the cultural collision of garage rock scruffiness and shameless Europhilia, a sly re imagining of fine dining rituals and unstoppable parade of of inspired food...." All taken respectfully from page 67 of Portland Monthly's latest edition put me at ease.
As I sat waiting for my dinner, I was taking in the entire feel, scents and ambiance of Ava Gene's. Trying to figure out what they are going for here was a little tricky to say the least. It's like they want you to feel like you are in your typical Italian restaurant but wait... there's just enough uniqueness and few differences that almost make you feel there could truly be a beautiful crash. That is thee number one thing I love about Portland's food scene and that alone kept me wondering what my dinner was going to taste like. I wanted it to be really good and spectacular and gorgeous and I hoped in my heart of hearts that I would not be disappointed. I wasn't!
I don't usually go for the dessert but what the heck, new restaurant, first time here and so I went for it. A dish of vanilla gelato with a krispy rice type of breakfast cereal mixed with a housemade Nutella-like deliciousness with a chocolate decadence that made Ray want to taste more than he said he would. I let him have a few more bites than we bargained for and devoured the rest of the gelato and bits and smiled and truly enjoyed every single last spoonful.
Tips if you are going to Ava Gene's for the very first time... read the reviews on Yelp. They are pretty awesome and spot on for the most part. Also, pick up the latest edition of Portland Monthly and read about this restaurant and other "2013 Best Restaurants." You definitely need reservations and if you love the "chef's bar" experience like we do, ask to be seated there when you make your reservation. Enjoy the wine and order more than your main course. There's a few items on the Formaggi, Fritti and Pane lists that I have already planned to order on my next visit to Ava Gene's.
Finally, starve yourself all day and go hungry! You will want to truly enjoy it all! From the red plaid vibe to the food, the ambience to the most delicious "grassy tasting" olive oil and from the beginning to the end of it all... eat slowly and taste and love every bit of every bite.